Reflecting further on my comments previously about Calvinism, a friend shared this wonderful quotation from St. Ambrose, whose day we observe today. It is a good dose of Jesus, sure to cure whatever theological quirks or “system” or speculations about the decrees of the sovereign God might ail a body. Good for all us. Oh, come, Oh, come Immanuel!
90. To Him, therefore, let all come who would be made whole. Let them
receive the medicine which He hath brought down from His Father and
made in heaven, preparing it of the juices of those celestial fruits
that wither not. This is of no earthly growth, for nature nowhere
possesseth this compound. Of wondrous purpose took He our flesh, to the
end that He might show that the law of the flesh had been subjected to
the law of the mind. He was incarnate, that He, the Teacher of men,
might overcome as man.
91. Of what profit would it have been to me, had He, as God, bared the
arm of His power, and only displayed His Godhead inviolate? Why should
He take human nature upon Him, but to suffer Himself to be tempted
under the conditions of my nature and my weakness? It was right that He
should be tempted, that He should suffer with me, to the end that I
might know how to conquer when tempted, how to escape when hard
pressed. He overcame by force of continence, of contempt of riches, of
faith; He trampled upon ambition, fled from intemperance, bade
wantonness be far from Him.
92. This medicine Peter beheld, and left His nets, that is to say, the
instruments and security of gain, renouncing the lust of the flesh as a
leaky ship, that receives the bilge, as it were, of multitudinous
passions. Truly a mighty remedy, that not only removed the scar of an
old wound, but even cut the root and source of passion. O Faith, richer
than all treasure-houses; O excellent remedy, healing our wounds and
93. Let us bethink ourselves of the profitableness of right belief. It
is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my
infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me, that
is to say, for every man, He was made sin, and a curse, that for me and
in me was He humbled and made subject, that for me He is the Lamb, the
Vine, the Rock, the Servant, the Son of an handmaid, knowing not the
day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour.
94. For how could He, Who hath made days and times, be ignorant of the
day? How could He not know the day, Who hath declared both the season
of Judgment to come, and the cause? A curse, then, He was made not in
respect of His Godhead, but of His flesh; for it is written: “Cursed is
every one that hangeth on a tree.” In and after the flesh, therefore,
He hung, and for this cause He, Who bore our curses, became a curse. He
wept that thou, man, mightest not weep long. He endured insult, that
thou mightest not grieve over the wrong done to thee.
95. A glorious remedy—to have consolation of Christ! For He bore these
things with surpassing patience for our sakes—and we forsooth cannot
bear them with common patience for the glory of His Name! Who may not
learn to forgive, when assailed, seeing that Christ, even on the Cross,
prayed,—yea, for them that persecuted Him? See you not that those
weaknesses, as you please to call them, of Christ’s are your strength?
Why question Him in the matter of remedies for us? His tears wash us,
His weeping cleanses us,—and there is strength in this doubt, at least,
that if you begin to doubt, you will despair. The greater the insult,
the greater is the gratitude due.
96. Even in the very hour of mockery and insult, acknowledge His
Godhead. He hung upon the Cross, and all the elements did Him homage.
The sun withdrew his rays, the daylight vanished, darkness came down
and covered the land, the earth trembled; yet He Who hung there
trembled not. What was it that these signs betokened, but reverence for
the Creator? That He hangs upon the Cross—this, thou Arian, thou
regardest; that He gives the kingdom of God—this, thou regardest not.
That He tasted of death, thou readest, but that He also invited the
robber into paradise, to this thou givest no heed. Thou dost gaze at
the women weeping by the tomb, but not upon the angels keeping watch by
it. What He said, thou readest: what He did, thou dost not read. Thou
sayest that the Lord said to the Canaanitish woman: “I am not sent, but
to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” thou dost not say that He
did what He was besought by her to do.
97. Thou shouldst hereby understand that His being “sent” means not
that He was compelled, at the command of another, but that He acted, of
free will, according to His own judgment, otherwise thou dost accuse
Him of despising His Father. For if, according to thine expounding,
Christ had come into Jewry, as one executing the Father’s commands, to
relieve the inhabitants of Jewry, and none besides, and yet before that
was accomplished, set free the Canaanitish woman’s daughter from her
complaint, surely He was not only the executor of another’s
instruction, but was free to exercise His own judgment. But where there
is freedom to act as one will, there can be no transgressing the terms
of one’s mission.
98. Fear not that the Son’s act displeased the Father, seeing that the
Son Himself saith: “Whatsoever things are His good pleasure, I do
always,” and “The works that I do, He Himself doeth.” How, then, could
the Father be displeased with that which He Himself did through the
Son? For it is One God, Who, as it is written, “hath justified
circumcision in consequence of faith, and uncircumcision through faith.”
99. Read all the Scriptures, mark all diligently, you will then find
that Christ so manifested Himself that God might be discerned in man.
Misunderstand not maliciously the Son’s exultation in the Father, when
you hear the Father declaring His pleasure in the Son.
Chapter XI of Book II Of the Christian Faith by St. Ambrose. (Nicenee & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol. 10 Ambrose: Select Works and Letters p. 235)